- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2016

An agreement announced Thursday will allow Swedish prosecutors to interrogate Julian Assange inside Ecuador’s embassy in London regarding a rape case opened against the WikiLeaks founder six years earlier.

The arrangement, if successful, will once and for all see the antisecrecy website’s exiled editor-in-chief participating in an probe that began before some of the organization’s most notorious leaks, including most recently the publication of stolen Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the party’s convention in Philadelphia last month.

Mr. Assange, 45, is wanted for questioning with regards to rape claims made following an August 2010 trip to Stockholm. Unwilling to travel abroad, however, the investigation has been at an impasse since he was granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. The Australian-born hacker has resided inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the four five years, and has suggested that journeying beyond the building would result in his arrest and extradition to the U.S. over charges related to WikiLeaks. An United Nations working group has labeled this condition as “arbitrary detention,” and in violation with international human rights laws.

Sweden’s attorney general formally requested permission to meet with Mr. Assange at the embassy in June, and their counterpart in Quito has since delivered a document agreeing to the appeal, Ecuador said Thursday.

“For more than four years, the government of Ecuador has offered to cooperate in facilitating the questioning of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as well as proposing other political and legal measures, in order to reach a satisfactory solution for all parties involved in the legal case against Julian Assange, to end the unnecessary delays in the process and to ensure full and effective legal protection,” Ecuador said in a statement.

“In line with this position, Ecuador proposed to Sweden the negotiation of an agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which was signed last December and which provides the legal framework for the questioning,” it continued. “Ecuador’s foreign ministry reiterates its commitment to the asylum granted to Julian Assange in August 2012, and reaffirms that the protection afforded by the Ecuadorian state shall continue while the circumstances persist that led to the granting of asylum, namely fears of political persecution.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has been actively investigating WikiLeaks since at least 2010 when the website began publishing military documents supplied by Pvt. Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst deployed to Iraq. Manning, 28, is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for charges related to the leaks.

The website most recently drew the ire of the government by publishing thousands of stolen DNC emails last month. The publication of that correspondence emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philly has been directly attributed with leading to the ousting of the party’s chairperson, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

Mr. Assange has not been charged with rape, and has rejected the accusations against him as false. Attempts to reach him for comment Thursday was not immediately successful. A date for the interrogation has not yet been announced.

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